At the beginning of the school year I’m always filled with lots of inspiration to pack nutritious, exciting lunch boxes for my kids. This usually lasts around a month or two (if I’m lucky) because reality sets in and I just don’t have energy for much when I need to pack their lunchboxes. Well, that’s how it worked the first year of them going to pre-school anyway. I vowed to be more organised last year (their second year) and things really went better. I started packing their lunchboxes the night before which meant that I had more time in the mornings and it was easier to be creative. The problem I found is that the twins really only like peanut butter sandwiches. I tried an arrangement of toppings which they like at home but at school they seem to only want to eat peanut butter. I’ve given in to some extent only pushing them with a ham sandwich here or there but I try to make the rest of their lunchbox as fun-filled and healthy as possible.
I always include fresh fruit and vegetables in their lunchboxes but I’ve found that if they have to work too hard, they’ll just leave it. Bananas and unpeeled citrus fruit, whole apples, etc. come back as is. So I’ve decided to always slice the fruit and place in little plastic containers with lids OR to make fun skewers. I often cut out shapes with cookie cutters when I’m feeling very energetic otherwise I just cube and thread onto bamboo skewers I buy in bulk. I also sometimes make them these gorgeous ‘mezze’ skewers with some cold meat, cherry tomatoes, olives and cheese (although Aidan doesn’t like cheese so his is without). Other vegetables I include range from cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, baby carrots/sticks, broccoli (yes really. Abi is obsessed with broccoli) and baby corn. I find any other vegetables a bit of a challenge and pushing my kids’ willingness. It helps when I include a small pot of tzatziki for dipping (which my kids adore). Of course, the one thing that never comes back uneaten is yoghurt. I always include a pot of yoghurt.
When it comes to sandwiches, if your children are willing to venture past peanut butter or ham, there are a plethora of ideas to take an average sandwich to new heights. Use wholewheat/Low GI/Rye if your kids will eat it and any of these fillings:
- Chicken/Egg/Tuna mayonnaise. Replace half of the mayo with Greek yoghurt and add chopped carrots, celery or cucumber to the mixture for added crunch and nutrients.
- Hummus, grilled chicken (replace with shaved chicken if wanted), grated carrot.
- Basil pesto, tomatoes and thinly sliced mozzarella.
- Left-over roast meat and gherkins.
- Bacon, lettuce and tomato.
- Roast beef, lettuce, mustard and thinly sliced cucumber.
A cute idea is to make ‘sushi’ out of your child’s sandwich. Here I used mayo, ham, carrots and cucumber. Simply flatten the bread and cut off the crust then top the bread with ham, grated cheese, cucumber, carrots, etc, roll up tightly and slice. You could secure them with a toothpick, but I add a little more mayo if they look like they’re unravelling. My kids love it when I do this and I feel like a bit of a supermom when I do, so it’s a win-win for all of us.
As extras, I sometimes include a packet of crackers, muffins or mini frittatas (which I bake in muffin trays) but this does not happen very often. I also sometimes use left-over pasta from dinner the night before (small pasta like macaroni or shells work best) and make pasta salad with lots of crunchy veg and a mayo/yoghurt dressing. I put this into small containers and It definitely is easier to stuff their lunchboxes with unhealthy food and believe me, I am often tempted but I am trying to instill healthy eating habits into my kids because having battled weight issues my entire life, I’d like for them to be spared. This is why I encourage them to eat a healthy, balanced diet as often as I can. They are allowed a sweet and a packet of crisps in their lunchbox every Friday (the school’s rule) which I love. Each classroom also has a water cooler with fresh, filtered water and the kids are encouraged to drink as much as possible during the day. I pack them a bottle of chilled juice/water as well (2 parts water to 1 part juice) but I find they drink so much water at school they barely touch their juice.
I think the main thing to remember when you’re packing your child’s lunchbox is to pack stuff your kids will eat. I can tell you that you must pack vegetables and fruit and yes of course it’s healthy for them but if your child doesn’t touch vegetables at home, they will definitely not eat it at school. Try to get them to try a new vegetable every day and hopefully they’ll be more open to it. Also, try to plan the lunchboxes a week ahead. Include it in your meal planning for the week and that way you will be prepared. Packing the lunchboxes the night before has really been a lifesaver for me. I do it while I am prepping and cooking dinner and they are simply grabbed on our way out of the house in the morning. What do you pack for your kids? Do you have any fab ideas/tips that I haven’t mentioned here?